A study funded by the BTA into tinnitus services in the UK has revealed considerable regional variation in tinnitus service provision, particularly in the availability of psychological treatments.

The study

Based on a survey conducted by the BTA - aimed to define and evaluate nationwide tinnitus services from the patients' viewpoint.

Although over 6 million people in the UK have tinnitus, there is no standard treatment pathway for tinnitus patients within the NHS. Possible therapies include education and reassurance, cognitive behavioural therapies, sound enrichment, or amplification of external sound via hearing aids.

The majority of patients contacted their GP within one year of the onset of their tinnitus symptoms, with most of these doing so within three months of onset. A variety of interventions were offered, with around three-quarters of patients referred to secondary care. However, one in five reported that their GP took no further action.

Once referred to secondary care, the vast majority of people underwent audiometric testing and over half underwent MRI scanning. About one-third of patients were referred onwards for tinnitus therapy. Therapy was generally delivered by an audiologist or hearing therapist. Few patients (2.6%) saw a psychologist, despite psychological treatments having the best evidence base for successful tinnitus management.

Sadly, reports such as "My GP didn't seem bothered and he didn't really want to explain anything to me, maybe he just didn't know enough about the subject. He could of [sic] sent me to a specialist who could help me further" were common.

The BTA is highlighting this study in the hope and expectation that healthcare purchasers in the UK will heed this work and improve the provision of tinnitus services.

Read the study

Tinnitus services in the United Kingdom: a survey of patient experiences” - published in BMC Health Services Research.